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Two prominent Canadian journalists share their views on civic duty, patriotism, and journalism at a free public lecture Sponsored by the Canadian Media Research Consortium. The discussion took place at the University of British Columbia Robson Square Theatre on October 27, 2003. Introduction by Donna Logan, Director of the School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia and one of the Directors of the Canadian Media Research Consortium.

Tonight we are exploring the conflicts between journalism and patriotism and whether it's possible to be both and to report the truth. In examining news coverage from the war in Afghanistan to Iraq — it's clear there are sophisticated forces at work attempting to influence the information we receive. The networks all have agendas — the journalists often have agendas — and there are other organizations —attempting to influence journalists at a minimum — and to control news stories if they can.

There are challenges for all of us in trying to determine whether the news we are receiving is the news someone wants us to get — or is there a truth out there — and if there is, how much of the truth are we getting?

For those of us interested in finding out what is really going on, in Iraq or anywhere else in the world for that matter, we have to ask ourselves how much do our strongly held beliefs — whatever they are — influence our understanding of what is happening in the world and how it gets interpreted. What is the truth? And whose truth is it?

These are difficult questions, but ones our distinguished guests will discuss tonight.

Jeffrey Dvorkin has spent many years as a journalist and news executive at CBC Radio before becoming the head of news and information at National Public Radio in Washington. He is now the Ombudsman for NRP and in that job he is in the unique position of hearing from thousands of people who weigh in about the kind of news stories they are receiving.

Arthur Kent, is a war correspondent who gained notoriety as the "scud stud" when he was at NBC news during the first Gulf war, but Arthur has been following conflicts and wars internationally for most of his career. He has produced Emmy award winning television documentaries and has worked for every major television network including CBC, BBC, CNN and NBC.

So gentlemen to kick off the discussion we ask you, does patriotism undermine good journalism? Can or should journalists take sides?

Jeffrey Dvorkin: As Ombudsman I have the freedom and responsibility of deciding which emails, letters, calls, are valid complaints about the journalism and the programming. Last year excluding spam and porn, I received 45,000 about NPR alone. People had discovered that there was a place in which they could express their concerns and their comments and occasional thanks, but it was a place where they wanted to discuss the issues. And the issues that we discuss are mostly around issues of bias and in the US right now as you know, there is a tremendous and building anxiety about what is going on in the United States.

There was kind of, as the Queen once called it, an annus horriblus for journalism, and I think it was in 1986 when the head of CBS news reported that for the first time in the history of CBS, CBS news itself has turned a profit. The bad news that for every year after that the news division would have to show a profit, and they would no longer be subsidized by sports and entertainment and all the other shows that are part of a broadcast organization. So by the 1990s, news organizations were returning an annual profit of between of between 20 and 25%. It meant that there would be a deep and permanent change in the way news operated. What happened is, and this happened at the public broadcasters as well. What happened is that the economics of news changed. And at that point the people who were the so called the bean counters would come and they would look around and ask, what is the most expensive thing that we're doing, and how can we get rid of it. We ended up, in the United States at least, deciding that foreign news was no longer important following the fall of the Berlin Wall. So you had news organizations like NBC who shut its Moscow bureau in the early 1990s because the story was over. The news doctors said people weren't really that interested in news. What really interested them was celebrity news, crime, OJ Simpson became a huge ratings hit and on and on it went. The end result was a return on investment for shareholders rather than an accountability to the listeners, viewers and readers. I think the result of that change in the 1990s was that we downgraded the value of fact-based reporting and we moved in the era of faith-based reporting. What we have now is opinion, which is presented to us as information when in fact it's just an opinion. There's nothing wrong with opinions I have them you have them. But the question is: do we have reporting that's placed at the front of this rather than somewhere behind? What's also happened is the rise of talk radio in the 1990s in the US and to a certain extent in Canada has changed the political dynamic and the nature of the journalistic discourse.

Two things happened in the mid-eighties. In the U.S., the so-called fairness doctrine was abolished which meant that radio and television were no longer obliged to put forward many opinions, they could just put on one opinion, which lead to the rise of the talk radio hosts who were under no obligation to give another perspective. The other thing that happened is that religious broadcasters for the most part put up gigantic 500,000 watt transmitters and they blast everything away so that small radio stations, public radio stations with smaller wattage are completely obliterated and there's nothing that anyone can do because it allows the marketplace to decide. We have this mass of opinion masquerading as information. I'm afraid what it's done is infected the so-called mainstream news organizations as well. I think what we need to do is get back to fact based reporting. We have to make sure that our reporters must not feel that they can use their position as reporters to express their personal opinions. I think we're at a difficult place right now where often our audience is confused as to what is the difference between opinion and fact based reporting. Over the next month or so a new public radio ethics guide will come out and one of the things that we made sure we put in there is that reporters must not express personal opinion on matters of public controversy. We must have an obligation to our listeners to present the information to allow the listeners to make up their own minds. I think this is extremely difficult when we're being bombarded by so much strong opinion, especially from right wing talk radio.

I think we have to get back to the point where we are able to ask tough but civil questions and to do it for the benefit of the audience because that's who we serve. We don't serve anybody else- we don't serve shareholders, we don't serve the stock exchange, we don't serve our political masters if we have any. We serve our listeners, I think that's the value of what public radio does, and I think that's the value of journalism in America and Canada today, if we're only able to recognize it.

Arthur Kent:To the question: patriotism, should journalism take sides. Does the mass media take sides? Well we should side in a sense with the welfare of our readers and communities. But frequently that means finding ways to report stories that people don't yet understand that they need to know about. That's in Canada, in the US, everywhere.

If I were to draw a line in the proverbial sand it would be this: this avalanche of crudely stated, raw opinion is suffocating political culture, especially in the United States. And we are talking about the United States, because I think that it's the war in Iraq that has really informed this session - it is the current US administration that has dragged the world into this war and what do we know for sure: it's a mess. It's going to get worse. And the mass media in the United States, and to a certain extent in Britain were used by these administrations to start a war which nobody had figured out how to end and which we're quite likely to live with perhaps for a decade or more. In some of what I will say, you might detect a note of opinion but I remember my father's instructions to me an associate editor of the Calgary Herald, he said never burden your readers with your opinions. If you really want to get them mad, truck out the facts. I would say, that there is an entire universe of factual information that's being ignored by much of the mass media, especially the broadcast media and big TV networks in the United States for the reasons Jeffrey has so well summarized. And I think that aggressively pointing our reportorial skills in that direction and committing advocacy journalism which the powers that be may complain is entirely opinionated, is entirely justified at a time when see the world going up in flames. Just before the war got under way I was in London, I'd gone to the UN and Washington and we knew the U.S. was going into Iraq and here we have the United States administration casting off all traditions of American diplomacy, chasing traditional allies from the tent, ridiculing the French and others and the Canadians. So I got together with some friends, Professors Steven Livingston and Sean Aday, who teach at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, to talk about setting up a study to see how this war was being reported on television, where most Americans get their news, and where the administration puts most of its propaganda to rally public opinion. We wanted to see how the media were affecting the Bush Administration's war policy? We knew what we thought was going on but we couldn't prove it without recording all the American networks and a few others 24hrs a day all throughout the war. Then we'd have to analyze it to really tell for sure. And we must have had one or two many drinks that night because we decided to do exactly that. And two days later we had the machines at work, the study is called 'TV News Scan'. And the conclusion, 5000 hours of videotape later, with grad students tasked to go through and code every second of audio and visual according to a list of 79 criteria. The preliminary results which will be posted on a website here, say that 'American television coverage focuses overwhelmingly on the battling tactics while ignoring diplomacy and public opinion. There was too much emphasis on the pyrotechnics rather than the politics of the war.' The study compared NBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and CBC with Al Jazeera and Egyptian TV. When the American news deviated from objective coverage it tended to be favourable for the war effort. When Arab channels did it was on the critical side. Now they are going to combine these results with studies in Britain of British networks and studies of the CBC.

They will be pouring over the results for years but some of the preliminary results are really disturbing. While the Arab networks devoted around 23% airtime to diplomacy and protest, for the American channels it was just 7%. Now, they looked at tone to be non-objective or biased the reporters or anchors really had to say something supportive or critical, really bold statements. Using that as criteria the study found that by that definition around 90% of the coverage by both the American and the Arab channels was objective. With one exception, Fox news channel was only 60% objective. I'll just conclude by saying personally I think this war has marked a new and dangerous low. At no time since I pounded the typewriter for the Calgary Herald in 1973 have I seen the world's broadcasters, and let me make a distinction because there are newspapers and broadcasters that are preserves of sanity in reporting and journalism like NPR and the BBC, but at no other time have I seen the world's broadcasters - the richest, best-resourced agencies in the history of journalism - stoop so low to reinforce the prejudices of their viewers. I can site you outrage after outrage in the videotaped evidence.

And it is chilling to note on the way into Iraq I took a look at a European news report that showed a camera wandering the hallways of Syrian television and it paused over the workstations of the journalists and there was a sign there. Euro news normally has no narration it just has text every now and then to tell you where you are. It paused on the Arabic inscription on the wall and the translation said: It is forbidden to show US forces, we must focus on the victims of aggression. So there's where we are two worlds, not just the violence that we're seeing on horrible days like today that points to a dreadful future. But the clear knowledge and evidence that these big networks are helping narrow political cliques to deepen the jeopardy that we all face and we as journalists are duty bound to expose it and try to correct it.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: I don't disagree with Arthur when he says that there's a kind of craven quality to official journalism, but I think it's a quality that exists everywhere when it comes to journalistic organizations trying to ingratiate themselves with power. And it's very disturbing to see what's going on in the United States now. I think it's incumbent on all of us to look a little harder these days and know that they days when could rely on a couple of news sources because we thought they were trustworthy are gone forever. Part of that may be the influence of the internet on mainstream news organizations. The rise in rumour and innuendo and unsubstantiated assertion that passes for information is really quite astonishing now. The kind of rigidity in so-called mainstream media may be in part, a reaction to a loss of control that journalists once enjoyed. Now there are the respected journalists and the not so respected journalists. I think we serve our audiences not by giving them opinions on the war in Iraq from journalists. We can always find thoughtful opinion makers who can talk in valued terms about what's going on in Iraq. Whether it's those who say, 'the war in Iraq may be a necessary step toward the modernization of Islamic culture' or those who say, 'This is a disaster and its only going to lead to the ruin of all of us.' I think have to have those voices in radio and television news, but when we have the opinions of journalists we end up kind of debasing the coinage.

Arthur Kent: But here's the good news, we don't have to engage in opinion but we do have to search out the facts. Go after the hidden, ignored facts. Now, you're with an organization that is driven fundamentally each day with a news and editorial conscience, and fortunately more and more Americans are going to NPR to the CBC, and the BBC to get their news. But the real electronic information marketplace that steers the U.S. and allows the Bush Administration to propagate the myth that Saddam sent the aircraft into the World Trade Centre and the pentagon; those are the big networks. One of my colleagues at NBC said 'We have absolute freedom, reporting in this narrow channel.' When I was writing during and after my lawsuit with NBC I came to call this commercial censorship. The identification by network executives of those stories that would guarantee to jack up ratings and revenue. Their turning to OJ, Monica, Diana to create news sensations and their decision, to only cover with any regularity and with any depth those stories that would result in a rating spike. What we saw in the Iraq war, was the tendency, I believe, of the major network news divisions, dominated as they are by the programming advice of their entertainment divisions, and parent companies and conglomerates to marry their commercial narrative with the political narrative of the Bush Administration. They were removed from public service broadcast ethics. American diplomacy and even military doctrine has indicated that we must do a stories explaining the war based on the facts. The facts are simple: if you want to get into trouble as an American commander-in-chief, go have a foreign war without the Canadians and the French on your side. Like Vietnam, Like Iraq. It is statistically true that whenever the United States goes abroad on an ill-conceived, espionage-driven, foreign adventure, defying the will of its large traditional allies they get into trouble. That was not reported. The failure to report that was a kind of opinionated journalism.

The drive of reporters to step forward and say 'You bastards! I don't care how big a corporation you are, the history and tradition of American news is to cover the news the way the world dictates we do it.' Here we have an administration straying, as many voices in academia in the US, there are a lot of people we could interview and tell us why while democracy was being defied by the neo-conservatives, why this was such a dangerous departure. But they were not being covered with frequency by the big networks, who again, I believe found an appealing commercial narrative in the Bush Administration's political narrative.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Well, let's assume that the goal of the networks is political and the goal is the re-election of George W. Bush. Well they're doing it in a rather interesting and possibly effective way. I have a study too, the Program on International policy attitudes, a joint project of several academic centres. Some of them based at the University of Maryland and the knowledge networks, which is a California-based polling firm, spent the better part of a year tracking the public's misperceptions of major news events and polling people to find out where they go to get things so screwed up. This poll revealed that 48% of Americans believed that the U.S. had found evidence of a close-working relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, 22% thought the U.S. had found weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq, 25% thought that most people in other countries had backed the United States in the war against Saddam Hussein. 60% of all respondents believed at least one of these falsehoods, 8% believed all three. Then the researchers said, 'Where did you get your information?' Most of them got the information from Fox. 80% of Fox viewers believed one of these 'facts', 45% believed all three. At CBS 71% fell for at least one of these mistakes, but just 15% believed all three. Still 23% of NPR listeners believed one of these misconceptions while only 4% believed all three. So we've got to find those 4% and see how much they're giving, and if they're reading my articles. It's nice that NPR is the lowest of the misinformed. By the way, 71% of newspaper readers believed at least one of those misconceptions. The issue is what has happened to mainstream journalism? Something has gone terribly awry with journalism.

Arthur Kent: Well look, you know, I've been watching this closely. If you're an intelligent news consumer and you read more than one newspaper a day, even getting the headlines and the leads, and you watch or listen to a few broadcasters each day, you can pick out the main themes -especially in the post-war period, where the reporting has been very strong in print- you can understand today, why things happened. The fact that Americans don't understand that if they're going to one news source, like Fox, then you've got to ask what has gone wrong. It is the result of the hyper-commercialization of the broadcast news industry in America. The evidence of this comes from the fact that Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, was statistically the network which more than any other, even far more than Al Jazeera, strayed from objective coverage. Yet Fox's sister Rupert Murdoch-owned network, Sky News in the United Kingdom did not. The evidence we have thus far there is that Sky, like ITN and the BBC adhered genuinely balanced coverage of the news. Why? Because in the UK, viewers expect that the bad guys will get pointed out as bad guys, whether they're Tony Blair or Saddam Hussein. Commercially, in terms of ratings and revenue, it would be suicidal for the Murdoch organizations to force Sky to be as bent as is Fox News. And any of my colleagues in network news still working with all the other networks will tell you- the tendencies that turned Fox into the beast that it is exist at all the big networks in the U.S. And when senior correspondents go into work, they are looking at a management cadre in which not a single member of management has the intent of committing journalism at any point in the day. It's numbers. It's ratings. And they'll tell you that to your face. This is no secret. That's what's going wrong. That's why American taxpayers and British taxpayers are facing this immense load and why all of us are facing the perils of this growing terrorist menace.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Yet at the same time that's happening we're ignoring the changes that this war is having in this region. Some of which are profound. The idea that, and I haven't been in Iraq as you have, but I was recently at a conference in Istanbul talking to Turkish and Arab journalists about what changes the Iraq war seems to have. A number of surveys within the Middle East have looked at public opinion in light of the war in Iraq, and there is some expression that while the war has been devastating, the elimination of Saddam Hussein is actually something that people in the region appreciate. They're still furious at American policy towards Israel and the Palestinians, but the idea that there's a potential now that the old regimes in Egypt and Saudi and other places might start to either rethink the way they operate, or even encourage and give heart to reformers in the Arab and Muslim world is really astonishing. That's why it is imperative that as journalists we measure what we do in terms of a larger outcome. Yes there are political consequences, what happens in the election in the U.S. next year is highly dependent on what happens in Iraq over the next six months, especially through the early part of the primary campaigns. But it's something huge that's happening in that region. And we have to be very careful as reporters that we're being quite deliberate and un-inflammatory in how we're reporting this.

Arthur Kent: Yeah, we should stick to the facts. And the facts are that we're looking at an extreme calamity. It is true, I mean every Iraqi will tell you how wonderful it is to be rid of Saddam. But we should also be reporting the facts. Not the distortions that are coming from Paul Bremmer, from President Bush and from the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Oil production is half what is was before the war. It's down to 1.7 million barrels a day. In Basra, people are cutting down date palms to use as fuel. Electricity is sporadic at best. There are gunfights and organized crime is thriving. In some areas of the city the British are having to make deals with local city warlords to keep order. Nobody's started rebuilding Basra University which was trashed and completely destroyed by looting- the product of the under-manning of the U.S. and British military invasion and their inability to maintain order- against the very recommendations of the State Department and the Ministry of Defense.

These are facts that need to be reported, and regardless of the fact that there was some jumping for joy when Saddam was gone, any of us who've reported from there over the past 12 years can testify to the terror that that villain created among the populous, but if your family is still living without services, if your infants are still dying, if you can't let your children go to school, then the opposing ranks will continue to swell. I ask you, when was the last time that an organized terrorist force pulled off a near simultaneous, 5 suicide bombers in one day? I believe today was the first time since September 11th that so many suicide bombers were available to act together. Now this is evidence of the clear warnings that have come to all journalists working in the area: this region has inflamed the possibility, the very real possibility that the flames consuming Israel could now actually join-like the wild fires we're seeing in Southern California- the flames of Iraq and bridge over to Pakistan. You know this is very real, and we're not inflaming the situation by reporting these stories. If we ignore these stories we do so at our peril.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: I'm not saying that we should ignore them, but I'm saying we shouldn't over-write them either. It's absolutely necessary to report them, but there's a short-term view and then there is a necessity for another view. And I'm just saying that your experience in the region, and perhaps my lack of experience in the region may be colouring how we approach these stories. What I'm saying is that we need to make sure that our perspectives are as recent as possible.

Arthur Kent: Definitely. But every broadcast day is dominated by official briefings from the White House and the Pentagon, which are after all, the public relations pitches of a very narrow political cult. And there is not in the broadcast day what we enjoyed in the industry just 12 years ago, when after leaving the Pentagon and the White House after your colleagues there had done their best to mess the hair of the official spokesman, the networks go to the field and say: 'Well there's the official view. What do you see on the ground? Does it match? You do that at NPR.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Now wait a minute. I think that you're confusing two journalistic roles here: the role of reporter and the role of pundit.

Arthur Kent: That's not punditry that's reporting.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: No, no, no. Wait a minute. I think what your doing is you're analyzing and coming to conclusions. You have to choose. If you want to be a reporter, then report. If you want to draw conclusions and be part of the 'commentariat' then you should do that.

Arthur Kent: I want to report.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Well then if you're going to report then your role is as the eunuch in the harem. You have all the responsibility and none of the pleasure.

Arthur Kent: I find it interesting, although rather perverse to imagine what it must be like to be a eunuch in a harem.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: As an ex-manager I think I know it all too well.

Arthur Kent: I can only say that where I report, I found it to be rather satisfying.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Now there's a medical breakthrough!

Arthur Kent: This is an interesting point. If your news organization opens its airwaves and as a journalist you stand there like a mike stand and allow the President of the United States, the Secretary of State for Defence or their spokesmen to have all that air time and say what they want to say, and then you do not, as a news organization, cut to a journalistic examination of whether that's true or false on the ground: that is a form of opinion by allowing them to propagate their opinion Jeffrey. There's no balance. There is no incisive examination, there is no calling to account and that is why we find ourselves in this quagmire from which at the current time we see no exit strategy.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Well, I'm not sure that I agree. And I think that we're concentrating too much on the main television networks as the source of news. They have fewer and fewer viewers all the time.

Arthur Kent: Still 65% of Americans get most of their news from the major TV networks.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: I don't think it's that high any more. But I'll stand by your numbers at this point. I think that there's more interesting journalism going on in a lot of other places. And I think we have to wean ourselves perhaps, from our dependence on the main nightly television newscasts as being the definition of what passes for reliable information.

Arthur Kent: That would be a great solution if we could turn everybody off though. We'd have no need to continue this discussion.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: But I think they are.

Arthur Kent: How can you say that when the President enjoyed these huge approval ratings while he's steered the world into this dilemma?

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Well I'm glad you asked that. Because I think that this raises another issue which we could perhaps go into at another time, but I have a feeling that the polling is done so badly and the interpretation is spun so wildly. We were chatting the other evening about the small sample size that passes for national polling in the United States now. It's about 700 people. And that is considered a reliable national poll. I sent an email to an old colleague at IPSOS Reid, a Canadian who's now gone to the U.S. And I said, 'gee, when you were doing polling in Canada in the '90's prior to the last referendum, you were doing a Canadian sample size of 2,000 people which was apparently a pretty reliable sample size. You're only doing 700 in the U.S. which is a country ten-times the size'' He replied, 'Our techniques are better' but I think we're being spun here.

Arthur Kent: Although the polls were correct in predicting the outcome of the California recall. Sadly.

Donna Logan: We're going to go to questions in a minute. But before we do, I'd like to ask you both, you're both Canadian, you've both done a lot of work in the United States.

Arthur Kent: We have a lot in common Jeffrey.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: We're both from Calgary.

Donna Logan: If American journalists are prevented by patriotism and commercialism from asking the tough questions, where are other journalists? Where are Canadian journalists? What about the Canadian media? What about the British media? Are we doing any better at this?

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Why don't you have a go at this?

Arthur Kent: Well goodness, I think in Britain this is a very painful experience. It's a very bitter place. The nation has been shaken because the most popular Prime Minister, literally in decades, who came after his second triumphal election victory with the promise of going on into a third record term has dragged the country into a position of international disrepute. I mean British and Canadian journalists I think bit into the covering of this war with a vengeance. I think in the UK all the networks were damned as being anti-Blair government. But just a week ago a survey of 4000 respondents by the Independent Television Commission, revealed that most people felt that the British networks were completely even handed. And of the 27% who said they had problems with the way the British networks covered the war, most of them said they were too pro-Bush/Blair, confounding the complaints of the Blair government which have launched a bitter vendetta on the media for daring to point out some of the points that I've raised here tonight. And I think that my own observations and those of people that I talk to tend to indicate that Canadian and British journalists tend to understand how dangerous it is to allow patriotism or anger, or this strange idea that after September 11th you have to change your journalistic ethics.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: But let's also be aware that there is a very powerful sentiment in this land and others that is anti-globalization. There's a tremendous reaction to the kind of American imperialism that came to be established in the 1990's. Bush's style is antithetical to most Europeans and to Canadians I believe, although it sure plays real good down in Texas- it's amazing. There's a confusion as well in the public's mind I think between this anti-globalization/anti-Bush sentiment that is around. And what I think our obligation is is to try pull back from that, and say: 'Yes but those are other issues.'

Donna Logan: Okay, time to go to the audience...

Audience question: I'm very interested about the question of globalization and the position that's been taken. My question is, how can the media support what is, in my opinion, an untruthful position about globalization instead of brining out as you have commented tonight how important it is to give facts, to give evidence, to give consequences of activities that are not well defined. How can the media accept an extreme position and not counter-act it?

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Who mentioned globalization? It's my fault. I think that, in Eastern Europe where I've spent a bit of time talking to journalists there and working with people who were part of the state broadcasting apparatus to try to help them develop into a public broadcasting service, their understanding of the nature of globalization is pretty positive. I think it depends on so many variables: history, culture, religion. One size does not fit all as you say, but there are aspects of it that do work very powerfully in certain places. It's enormously complicated, I agree.

Audience question: Just a comment and a question. I don't believe journalism is ever objective, nor should it be. Fundamentally journalism serves the owners of the media and I don't think it could be any different. I listen to CBC a lot and NPR a lot. I was incredibly saddened by CBC's reporting. You know I find that the CBC has sort of stooped to the level of taking the feed and using words like "terrorist" and "coalition" those words are highly charged and they convey an impression. They convey a story that certainly isn't the real story. And the other comment is that it's important the stories that are told define the news. That was mentioned by both of you I believe, and the stories that are told are too often the stories that are what the government is telling us every day, the news feed, and really the work of journalism has been so cheapened now. The question I have is that after the attacks in New York, how much work did NPR do to really tell the story of why they occurred? Why they occurred is the scary question that Americans didn't want to ask themselves. What work did NPR do in that regard?

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Actually, quite a bit. We, NPR, have had reporters in the region for a long time. The foreign desk has slowly grown throughout the 1990's as other foreign desks contracted. So we have been doing stories on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism all throughout the 1990's. One of the things NPR did immediately after 9/11 was send reporters into Afghanistan before the war began to talk about who the Taliban are, what was the environment that produced them, who is Al Qaeda, and where they came from. And in fact we were criticized very strongly for giving 'aid and comfort to the enemy', for whitewashing terrorism, doing stories that we thought were important for Americans and we were strongly criticized for by people in Congress. I think that NPR along with the New York Times and CNN and a couple of other news outlets actually did not a bad job in helping Americans understand what happened and why it happened and in fact we'd done a lot of the spade work before this.

Arthur Kent: I agree. I would say that CNN has shown a commitment over the years in the 1990's when you could count the occasions that CBS, NBC, and ABC sent people to Afghanistan on the fingers of one hand. CNN showed their continuing interest in what was going on in Afghanistan and sent people in several times a year. But it was a damning fact that in the beginning of September 2001 the major networks again were running up huge viewership telling Americans about shark attacks and the Chandra Levy tragedy. When our film on the Taliban was broadcast on PBS in June of 2001, I remember programmers at PBS saying 'Oh, this is something we haven't heard about this is new'.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Timing is everything in show business.

Arthur Kent: There has been a militant de-scheduling of international news coverage. You know, and we're still living with the after effects of that kind of news management.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: It's easy to beat up on CBS which went from having 38 correspondents in 28 bureaus in the late 1970's to now having five correspondents in four bureaus. CBC also downgraded its foreign correspondents. I'm guilty of that as well because I was part of the growth of CBC radio's foreign correspondents and then I had to cut them because orders came from Ottawa that the budget at the CBC was too great. So bang, down it went. In Canada we're not innocent either about how we've helped to make sure that Canadians are well informed.

Audience question: What I want to talk about is some thing Arthur said. You mentioned the word 'commercial censorship', what interests me more is this whole idea of self-censorship. Since 9/11 there seems to be an incredible amount of self-censorship. And I want to know what you both think, both you and Jeffrey about whether this self-censorship is coming from the gatekeepers, people that we talk about controlling the news, or is it coming from the journalists themselves.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Well I'm not sure what is meant in terms of self-censorship. I think it's a question of broadening our approach to this. I think that we are still blinded by this kind of narrowness of network television. Yet there's a hell of a lot more out there than that. And I think that people have an obligation to make sure that they find it. And I think that's part of it as well. We can just, you know, give it to them with soup ladles if you want. But I think there's another obligation here.

Arthur Kent: This is absolutely the truth. It is the obligation of every head of family to make sure that their family is adequately protected by having a sufficient quantity of information with which to make intelligent choices. You know, not to be prompted to go out and to smear gaffer tape plastic over your windows every time something happens. And I think that it is true. You know I remember meeting Ralph Nader years ago and his whole concept of the public citizen was that people should be aware and participate in the administration of their communities. The fact of the matter is, now I think people don't only get the governments they deserve, they get the media they deserve. People in the United States looking at the wreckage in Iraq' shouldn't forget how serious this is. I think we're at 390 deaths of U.S. and British service personnel since the beginning of the war. How many Americans know that in 1972, three years before the end of Vietnam, only 321 Americans service personnel were killed in Vietnam? This is Yankee Stadium stuff and the facts bear that out. And I think if the American public and Canadians are saying 'what happened'? Well you know, it really comes down to public responsibility, to the responsibility to be adequately informed, and as Jeffery pointed out, the information is there. There's some excellent reporting being done, but people have to go looking for it.

Audience question: In your remarks you tend to separate journalism from politics. But if you look what has happened with many journalists, they become part of politics. Just to throw out one name I'm sure you both know: Robert Novak of the Chicago Sun Times. My question is what about this shift among you folks as journalists, I mean you've become so politicized now. You're now all in bed together, so we see Robert Novak on Crossfire on CNN and then you hear about him the other day blowing the role of a CIA operative who is the wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson. But I guess the comment is: we've been getting all of this from journalists and then this particular journalist goes really over the top and blows the identity of a CIA operative. I mean, where's the ethics in journalism right now when you've got somebody who works at the Chicago Sun Times which isn't even an American owned newspaper conducting themselves in this manner? I'd just like to hear your comment on that.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Well, Robert Novak is also known as the Prince of Darkness in Washington, he is a commentator, he's not a daily news reporter. It doesn't mean that he can't uncover a story and he clearly did here. Was he right or wrong to identify the fact that the CIA operative was the wife of the man who gave the bad news to the Bush White House about the uranium? John Ashcroft is doing an investigation that has caused eyebrows to be raised to the backs of heads considering Ashcroft's open disdain for people who leak. There's a lot of turmoil in Washington right now. There's a lot of political activity that's going on. Yes in journalism, but also on the hill as well. As you watch the people who are going after the democratic nomination, you are seeing a lot more tough talk against the Bush administration. Joe Lieberman yesterday called for Rumsfeld to resign. That's astonishing. That is going to encourager les autres. There's going to be more of this that starts coming out.

Arthur Kent: There we've fallen into a major failing. His resignation should have been demanded and obtained a year ago on the basis of the disaster in Afghanistan and it's because of the really inept coverage of the 2001 Afghanistan campaign in part that the United States was able to find itself in the Iraq quagmire.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: My goodness you're a gloomy gus!

Arthur Kent: Shall we look at the facts? I just happen to have some facts from Afghanistan here that are not often reported. Hamid Karzi last week admitted that two years after the U.S. installed the President of Afghanistan, two years after the collapse of the Taliban, here is his quote: 'Most Afghans still live in fear.' 70% of health care in Afghanistan is still provided by NGOs.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: I'm not sure that's bad news.

Arthur Kent: Most of Hamid Karzi's control exists within Kabul city limits. He has been publicly derided by one of the northern warlords as 'the mayor of Kabul' or 'that kid in Kabul'.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: I'm still waiting to hear the bad news. You're expecting Afghanistan to turn into Switzerland overnight it's not going to happen.

Arthur Kent: Amnesty International claims that the plight of women has barely improved since the fall of the Taliban. Women are not protected by the criminal justice system. Girls as young as 8 are still being forced into marriages and face severe punishment for resisting or running away. There's only one Afghan woman who is in President Karzi's cabinet. The only group of people in Afghanistan who's hands are clean of blood, the women, have not been enabled. Now Mr. Rumsfeld is a guy who can separate fact from fiction. He has to, because his pals at the Pentagon get the facts, but the fiction goes to the public. And that needed to be reported long before the Iraq war started.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Yes, all kinds of horrible things are happening but the consequences of not doing something in Afghanistan or in Iraq may have been at least as bad if not worse and that's why I think that we need to be more measured in how we're reporting on these things.

Arthur Kent: I think that we have a fundamental responsibility, as the public is told there will be results, we have a responsibility to go out and gauge the results

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Yes, absolutely.

Arthur Kent: When the Bush administration glories in triumphalism after dispersing the Taliban regime, but when within months, that regime is in the process of trying to restore itself to control of some remote provinces, where significant portions of the Al-Qaeda leadership remain at large in the borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan, we have a responsibility to point out what's going on. I think of the interviews I've done with the survivors of 9/11 and the families who've lost people and they wanted results. The war in Afghanistan was to get the bad guys and to try to prevent future terrorist attacks. Have those results been achieved? No. Good-bye secretary Rumsfeld. And our reporting, while remaining strictly factual-based, we have a responsibility to steer our reportage in that direction if we hold any respect for journalism. The fact is that these are public servants and when they deceive and when they fail at their duty, we are duty-bound to expose them and to go get them.

Audience question: Hi. It's just a couple of quick comments here. For one thing I'm very interested to hear the spirits of the journalism that you're trying to promote which is great. On the other hand, I'm also very glad to see in hearing Arthur, that there is still hope in American journalism, seeing how you're defending the journalism as it is at this moment. Not much of a question here, but I really applaud both of your spirits here. Really it's really very intellectual and very satisfying to see both of you talking here and debating. After hearing what you're saying, Arthur, I have to say even though I do not watch CNN as much as I used to, I will continue to monitor the American broadcasters to see how truthful they are in terms of reporting and, watching how you defend journalism, I see that here is still hope and really applaud you for doing that. On the other hand, I also feel that the CBC has been very good in reporting foreign matters, you know, very truthful, very down to earth, I think, but I also find it's very lacking in terms of reporting domestic issues, and in terms of national reporting. I think somehow it has to do with Ottawa's control of the CBC's budget. But if you take a look between the different worlds, both the United States and how its networks have been reporting what's happening on the war of Iraq, and you take a look at what's happening with BBC reporting on Tony Blair's decision, there's been a huge amount of difference and really I think that's also the intellect differences between the people of the two different places. So, I really do not have a question but I really felt very good about what you're saying here.

Audience question: Thank you I have only two brief questions for both of you. One is regarding this phenomenon of embedding reporters in the military forces. I'm wondering if you may have some insight into how networks managed to fall into that position with the military? And the second question is more of an ethical issue and I'll just pose it as a hypothetical question to both of you. If either of you were the programming director of Al-Jazeera, would you have agreed to run the audio and video tapes allegedly made by Osama bin Laden? I guess what I'm trying to get at here is the idea of where propaganda and where reporting start to blend and what the responsibilities are of the networks to define the differences?

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Well, if I thought that I had tape of Osama bin Laden and that I could confirm in some way that it was him, or beyond a reasonable doubt, of course I'd run it. Absolutely. The question of embedded reporting, though, is a very interesting one.

Audience question: I was wondering, in response to what you just said, why the American networks to a large extent were so vehemently anti Al-Jazeera running these tapes, and there was a huge backlash from a lot of media sources.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: As I recall, and you can correct me if I'm wrong — American broadcasters ran excerpts of the tapes but they were unwilling to run the whole thing as a public service announcement and I think that was entirely legitimate. The White House objected to it and I think only Fox News obeyed. Everybody else ran some of it.

As for embedded reporting, I think it was actually pretty good journalism as long as it was balanced with other reporting. If your view of the war in Iraq was only from an embedded reporter, then it was kind of laudatory about the people who were in the miltary units. For a lot of the cable news services I think it was. I've said that it's like going for lunch at Hooters. You go there ostensibly to get a meal, but you're really there in case you might see something that you shouldn't. And it had a kind of news burlesque that verged on news pornography.

Arthur Kent: Hooters and eunuchs? But everything Jeffrey has said goes double. Absolutely. If there's irritation at the surfacing of these irritating commentaries and diatribes by Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama, well, you know, the United States and its partners had a chance to get them in Afghanistan and blew it and that's something they just have to face up to.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: But your study about how much time was given to embedded reporters — why don't you talk a little about that.

Arthur Kent: I was just about to do so.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Excellent. I'm glad I could intro that.

Arthur Kent: Because the point that Jeffery's made is reinforced by every news manager I've ever spoken to about this, say at ITN, or Reuters, BBC, the embedding process is a valuable one as long as it is complemented by getting journalists into as many different vantage points as you can. But, hey, I was there in the 1991 Gulf War. In some points they had as few as seven reporting pools out covering the entire front. This time there were almost 750 journalists embedded and a lot of them produced terrific reporting, in fact most of them did.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Half foreign, half American, so there was actually quite a broad range of viewpoints.

Arthur Kent: And the evidence in TV News Scan is that when the American networks strayed from straightforward reporting into biased broadcasting, the embedded correspondents were only to blame seven percent of the time. Anchors, and by a huge number, some 34 percent, former military personnel who are used as commentators, were the ones who started beating the drums. Not, I would say, at Fox, I can only say this anecdotally. We haven't broken it down yet but it will be broken down. At Fox I think it was shared between the anchors and the former commentators but even at Fox, you'll find that the embedded commentators weren't, aside from our dear friends Giraldo and Olly North, most of the Fox reporters were straightforward 'Here they come. There they go,' which is the kind of straight reportage that embedding is best suited for.

Donna Logan: Okay, on that note, I would like to say that the Canadian Media Research Consortium is an organization that is merely two years old. We exist mainly to do media research but a large part of our mandate is also to increase public awareness of the issues and hence the event that we've staged tonight. Before thanking the speakers, I want to thank you, the audience, who have shown interest in the issue and come out to hear our speakers. It is heartening to see that there are as many people who are interested in this issue. So speakers I would say thank you very much for a great discussion.

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